Thompson, Serwa finish 1-2 in women's ski cross
Marielle Thompson’s Twitter handle is @BigAirMar.
Which is appropriate, because on Friday, Thompson was floating on air.
Thompson, a native of North Vancouver, and her teammate Kelsey Serwa, who hails from Kelowna, B.C., won gold and silver in women’s ski cross at the Olympic Snowboard Park, the third time Canada has finished one-two in a freestyle ski event at the Sochi Games. Earlier, Canadians finished one-two in men’s and women’s moguls.
Under foggy conditions in the mountains of Krasnaya Polyana, the Canadians blasted out of the gate side-by-side in the big final and took an early lead. Thompson moved ahead of Serwa mid-way through the course and, by then, it was just a matter of the two Canadians holding on for gold and silver.
“We’re all about girl power from the start,” said the 21-year-old Thompson of the bond on the Canadian team. “We’re just having fun all day. I know Kelsey and we tried to help each other all the way down the course.”
Anna Holmlund of Sweden took the bronze. Ophelie David of France crashed midway down the course and finished fourth.
“It’s crazy. I don’t think it’s even sunk in yet. I just had a big wave of emotion,” said Thompson, when asked about winning the gold. “I’m so happy, especially to be up there with Kelsey, my teammate."
Thompson had won two World Cup races this season — at Nakiska, Alta., and Val Thorens, France — and had landed on the podium on two other occasions.
Her parents were both ski instructors and she began skiing at the age of two before taking up ski cross at 16 after becoming bored with alpine skiing.
Thompson dedicated her silver at the 2013 world championships in Voss, Norway, to former national team teammate and friend Nik Zoricic of Toronto, who died at a World Cup event in Grindelwald, Switzerland, in March 2012.
“I know Nik was with us in spirit and I am so excited right now,” said Serwa. “Nik was a good teammate and a good friend and a brother. He was an amazing guy, he loved the sport and he helped us girls get to where we are."
“This one is for him,” she added.
Serwa, 24, finished fifth at the 2010 Vancouver Games and won the 2011 world championship in Deer Valley, Utah. She had failed to land on top of the podium on the World Cup circuit this season, though she has a second-place finish from San Candido, Italy.
“Sharing the podium with my teammate Marielle — words cannot describe how happy I am,” said Serwa, who jumped over the fence at the finish line to give her dad (Brad) a hug. “My mum is there, too, and my grandma. I actually told my boyfriend not to come as I thought I would be too distracted by him.”
Serwa’s grandfather Cliff co-founded the Big White Ski Resort in Kelowna in the 1960s and she began skiing at the Big White Racers Club when her father did some work on the new club cabin and wasn’t paid for the job. A deal was struck where the club offered a free year in the Nancy Greene skiing program for Serwa and her siblings to compensate for the cost of construction.
Like Thompson, she began as an alpine skier. At the end of the 2007-08 alpine season, Serwa was told that the inaugural national ski-cross championship was being held in Rossland, B.C. Serwa booked a flight, arrived in time to race and finished second.
“Not bad for a first attempt, but ski cross is full out outcasts from alpine,” she said. “Alpine is so strict on rules. Ski cross is more relaxed, for free spirits or people looking for something more exciting than racing the clock.”
Serwa found herself in fourth early in the first semi, but stormed back to pass Katrin Ofner of Austria at the finish to place second and qualify for the final.
In the second semi, Thompson got out of the gate in second, but quickly took the lead and held on easily for first.
JUST WHAT DOC ORDERED
Canadian ski crosser Kelsey Serwa won a silver medal at the Olympic Snowboard Park on Friday, but she also deserves a Purple Heart.
Just making it to the starting line in the women's ski cross was a huge victory for the Kelowna, B.C native. Finishing second behind teammate Marielle Thompson was a testament to her guts and perseverance. Early in her ski cross career, prior to 2010, Serwa had suffered a series of injuries, including a broken wrist, a fractured and bruised heel, bruised ribs, a bruised lung and a concussion. At the 2011 Winter X Games in Aspen, she severly injured her back, and hurt her thumb and ribs after crashing at the line, though she still won the event. In January, 2012, she ruptured the ACL in her left knee at a World Cup race in Alpe d'Huez, France. In March 2013, she injured her left knee again, tearing the anterior cruciate ligament.
"I have been on a rollercoaster the past two years," Serwa said. "The last three years I have not made it through a full season -- I have broken my back and blown my knee twice."
"I am so glad to be on the podium and in one piece," she added.
CHECK OUT CANADA'S MEDAL WINNERS
Are you happy with Canada's performance at these Games?